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Judge dismisses Whole Foods workers’ lawsuit over masks

Whole Foods

(Reuters) — A federal judge on Monday dismissed a lawsuit by three former Whole Foods Market Inc. employees who said they had been illegally fired for opposing the upscale grocery chain’s alleged discriminatory discipline of workers who wore “Black Lives Matter” masks.

U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs in Boston found little evidence to refute Whole Foods’ “legitimate business explanations” for strictly enforcing the dress code, and no significant evidence it had targeted the plaintiffs by firing them in the summer of 2020.

“The evidence demonstrates only that Whole Foods did not strenuously enforce the dress code policy until mid-2020, and that when it increased enforcement, it did so uniformly,” Judge Burroughs wrote in a 28-page decision.

Whole Foods, part of Inc., has long maintained that it adopted its dress code — which also covered visible slogans, logos and ads — to foster a welcoming, safe and inclusive shopping environment.

Judge Burroughs said the former employees, Haley Evans, Savannah Kinzer and Christopher Michno, could not claim protection from retaliation under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Whole Foods said it was pleased with the lawsuit's dismissal.

The case is Kinzer et al. v. Whole Foods Market Inc.